A Brief History of The U3A

A brief history of the University of the Third Age

The University of the Third Age (U3A) is a registered charity that exists to promote the well-being of older people who are no longer in full-time employment. Originally founded in Toulouse, France, in 1972 as the Université du Troisième Age, under the leadership of Pierre Vellas, U3A activities have spread far and wide and branches are now to be found throughout the world. In France, the movement was supported by the universities but a very different model emerged here in the UK. It was soon realized that Third Agers themselves had the skills to organise and teach in their own self-help learning groups and so local U3As were formed based on this principle. Since we learn for the pleasure of learning, no qualifications are required and none are given.

The Third Age Trust

The U3A in the UK was started by the creation of the 'Third Age Trust' in 1982 as both a registered charity and as a limited company. Most of the local and regional U3A bodies in the U.K. operate under the umbrella of the Third Age Trust, which is a central coordinating organisation providing many support services and which forms a vital link between the national U3As and Government.